Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 16 2015

The Rule You Need To Make Every One Of Your Speakers Follow

By David McMillin


From scheduling pre-conference prep calls to reviewing and editing PowerPoint slides, meeting planners invest plenty of time and energy into making sure each speaker on the program has the right tools for a successful presentation. However, there is one essential component that can  make the difference between just another presentation and a memorable experience with actionable takeaways. It’s the 10-Minute Rule, a principle introduced years ago by Bill McKeachie, a psychologist and professor at the University of Michigan.

On Monday, at the 2015 PCMA Education Conference in Fort Lauderdale, John Medina, Ph.D., Developmental Molecular Biologist, Affiliate Professor, University of Washington/Seattle Pacific University, dove into why the 10-Minute Rule is such a crucial piece of today’s conference experience.

“The brain wants information delivered to it in specific chunks,” Medina said. “Every student’s attention tends to wane after 10 minutes.”

SEE ALSO: 4 Things Meeting Planners Can Do To Keep Their Speakers Happy

So should meeting planners start organizing speed conferences with 10-minute sessions? Not exactly. Medina highlights that speakers must recalibrate their approaches to discussing ideas and information.

“You should not give a 40-minute presentation,” Medina advised. “Instead, you should give four 10-minute presentations.”

This does not mean breaking a presentation into four sections with defined beginnings and endings. In between each of those 10-minute chunks, Medina recommends inserting a pause with emotionally competent stimuli. For example, at one point in his presentation, Medina told an alarming story about a young girl’s challenging upbringing and her ability to overcome the difficulties of abusive parents and a terrible home situation. The story fit with the larger subject matter — the science behind the human brain’s operations — but in a more compelling approach than just including graduate-level glossary terms about the brain’s cognitive power.

As planners continue to arrange 45-minute and 60-minute blocks of programming, Medina’s chunking advice is crucial to keeping attendees enthusiastic about the speaker on stage and the content on screen. More importantly, it helps attendees accomplish their key objective: to digest the information in a manner that helps them take those new insights back to the office.

“Most lecturers give way too much information,” Medina admitted. “Breaking up the material into smaller chunks slows me down enough to give you time to process what I’m saying.”

Interested in digging further into Dr. Medina’s perspective on how the science of the brain impacts planning a meeting? Check out his Q&A with Convene here.

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